Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

(Disney 2012)

On a stranger’s promise, fourteen-year-old Jepp leaves his mother and countryside home for the Palace of Coudenberg, home to Isabella, ruler of the Spanish Netherlands. But life as a court dwarf turns out to be more sinister than Jepp ever imagined and after he tries to help a friend, he is exiled to a strange and futuristic island of wonders. Inspired by the real story of the eccentric Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and the dwarf who served him.


  • A 2012 New York Times Notable Children’s Book
  • A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2012
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • A 2012 ABC Best Book for Children
  • An Autumn 2012 Indie Next List Pick
  • “Maximum Shelf” editors’ pick in Shelf Awareness

“Narrating a young adult novel from a dwarf’s perspective is nothing short of inspired…. Marsh transcends genre to create an engaging narrative complex enough to keep not-so-young adults turning its pages.”

—Kathryn Harrison in The New York Times Book Review

“Real history is effortlessly woven into her fiction … Marsh transforms [Jepp’s] ‘footnote’ of a story into an epic search for love, family, respect, and a destiny of one’s own making.”

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Marsh crafts a beautifully poignant coming-of-age tale of struggle, tragedy, and, finally, of triumph. Jepp’s indomitable spirit is truly inspiring, and it is this rare quality that makes his character so memorable…. This shining gem is a must-have.”

School Library Journal, Starred Review

“This outstanding work of historical fiction provides readers with more than just an imagined biography. Incorporating elements of adventure, romance, tragedy, intrigue, and science, the novel conjures a place and time not commonly explored in young adult fiction and offers plenty of period detail.”

The Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books, Starred Review

“It is no easy trick to conjure characters who seem truly situated in the past rather than merely transplanted from the present…. When it works, as it does in Katherine Marsh’s Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, the result is gold.”

Wall Street Journal

“Adolescents are newly encased—like Jepp—in bodies that seem too small (or too large) but never a match for what is inside them…. Marsh’s characters capture many near-ubiquitous experiences of this particular stage of life.”

—Ellen Handler Spitz in The New Republic

“Marsh’s elegant historical fiction has a moving message.”

The Independent, The 50 Best Books for Christmas

“A beautifully written coming-of-age story, inspired by real historical characters. A truly great read.”

—Recommended Reads, Children’s Books Ireland

“Confident and adventurous readers will find much to relish in the richness of Katherine Marsh’s narrative. With a strong central character in Jepp, this is an unusual and powerful coming-of-age story about first love and taking control of your future.”

Booktrust, UK, “Books We Like”

“A fast-paced adventure, abundant with period details … the honest and humorously self-deprecating voice of Jepp moves readers to rejoice with him as he seeks and manipulates his destiny.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“With an engaging hero and unusual setting, Jepp is compelling historical fiction about the treatment of those who are different and the challenges they face to be viewed as equal.”


“Now, I’m going to open the lid of this treasure chest and tell you that this is not mere storytelling… not mere entertaining rise and fall and adventure. We are looking at a book that has been crafted. I believe Crispin (Avi) has a friend in the making here. Brilliant.”

—Barb Langridge, A Book and A Hug

“One of the best works of straight-up YA historical fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year.”


“Rarely do I read a book that is written with such advanced skill as to evoke images of great poetry, while at the same time possessing a level of ease allowing even the most reluctant of reader to be swept into the story. All of this leaves only one word to describe Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. Magical.”

—Whatchamacallit Reviews

“Jepp’s slightly more formal voice is perfectly in keeping with his times and position, and the book’s stunning design, with its blue ink and end pages and chapter illustrations of stars and galaxies, calls to mind Brahe’s heavenly maps and Jepp’s own upward gaze.”

Washington Parent

“This highly unusual story about a highly unusual hero will also feel like your story. Few of us are imprisoned dwarfs, but all of us want to guide our own lives.”

—Jonathan Safran Foer, New York Times best-selling author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

“Delightful characters, unique setting, and lovely prose. This is historical fiction at its best!”

—Ruta Sepetys, New York Times best-selling author of Between Shades of Gray

“Rich, absorbing storytelling—a terrific read in every way.”

—Nancy Werlin, National Book Award finalist and author of Impossible